- For most of us, the term "bayou" means one thing: a sluggish body of water. But anybody getting on the Illinois Bayou with that thought in mind is in for a big and wet surprise. It may be the only bayou in the country featuring class II/III whitewater. The scenery is superb for all floats on the Bayou. The three forks North, Middle, and East provide exposure to rugged and remote country. Rocky outcrops, steep hillsides of dense forest, and periodic glimpses of wildlife can be expected. The main stem offers overhanging trees, interesting vistas, and occasional scenes of pastoral landscapes.
Most any necessity (other than rental canoes) can be obtained in the nearby towns of Hector and Atkins. The nearest outfitter is located on Big Piney Creek to the west. Camping is possible at the Bayou Bluff Campground at the confluence of the Middle and East Forks. In addition, the Forest Service has other developed campgrounds like Brock Creek and Long Pool that are within easy driving distance.
Recreation - The three forks of the Illinois Bayou offer some of the states best whitewater. In fact, the Bayou is recommended for experienced paddlers. It is not a good first time float. The Illinois Bayou is a seasonal stream, floatable only after periods of extended rainfall. A good indicator of "floatability" is the Scottsville reading on the Corps of Engineers recording (501-324-5150). Levels between 6.0 and 7.0 are best (6.5 minimum for the North Fork), and much beyond 7.5 is considered risky.
Bass are king on Illinois Bayou, and anglers will find healthy populations of three species the largemouth, small mouth and spotted bass. Bass fishing is generally best in spring and early summer, although some anglers prefer to fish the pot holes that form during drier months. Cold-water flatheads may reach weights up to 50 pounds or more,
making them the largest fish available to float stream fishermen. The best flathead fishing is at night, and the best areas to try include washouts around downed timber and deep holes in the outside bends of the stream.
Multicolored green and longear sunfish are also abundant in Illinois Bayou.
Climate - Arkansas has a temperate climate with the coldest temperatures near freezing during December, January and February. Daytime highs for these months usually reach 55 degrees F. Spring and fall temperatures are very mild with lows dipping to 44 degrees F and highs reaching 70 degrees F. July and August are the hottest months of the year with average temperatures reaching 90 degrees F. June and September average temperatures usually reach into the mid-eighties. Spring and winter months are the wettest of the year.
The Illinois Bayou has its origins high up on the south slopes of the Ozarks. The stream winds its way toward the town of Russellville and eventually joins the Arkansas River.
Primary points of access for the Bayou and its forks are the Arkansas highways 164 and 27 bridges, and several Forest Road crossings (chiefly 1000, 1001, 1301, and 1312). The Arkansas Hwy. 27 access is less than 20 miles north of Interstate 40.